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FEMEN: ‘COME, GET TOPLESS AND WIN’

THE FEMEN MOVEMENT PROTESTS. PHOTO: FEMEN WOMEN'S MOVEMENT. WIKIMEDIA

How does one imagine a feminist movement? Traditionally feminist movements have been about campaigning for reproductive rights, equal pay, women’s suffrage, protesting to increase awareness of sexual harassment, domestic violence and many other issues affecting women’s lives. Yet, in Ukraine this has taken on a new form – topless protest.

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War Criminals and the “Hague Hilton”

PRISON GATES, SCHEVENINGEN, THE HAGUE. PHOTO: TED SWEDENBURG. FLICKR
Charles Taylor, Ratko Mladić and Ante Gotovina are just a few who are detained by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, the Netherlands. ICC has the authority to investigate and prosecute those accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes when national authorities are unable or unwilling to do so. Important to mention is that the death penalty is excluded so the Court’s highest sentence can only be imprisonment.

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The Eastern Partnership and the Danish Presidency

The Eastern Partnership initiative, a cooperation involving six countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine), emerged from a Polish-Swedish idea in June 2008, and  developed into an official program one year later. The quest was to improve the relations between the EU and the partner countries in different ways, thus offering a prospect for them which can eventually lead to EU membership. (As Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said: “to the south, we have neighbours of Europe. To the east, we have European neighbours”.)The program is based on bilateral as well as multilateral relations including political and economic ties,  through meetings and conferences at different levels.

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Ukraine – Lost in transition

PRESIDENT VAN ROMPUY AND PRESIDENT BARROSO WELCOME PRESIDENT YANUKOVYCH. PHOTO: PRESIDENT OF THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL. FLICKR

The trials of Ukrainian opposition leaders, Yuliya Tymoschenko (Former Prime Minister, imprisoned for 7 years) and Yuriy Lutsenko (Former Minister of Internal Affairs, still on trial), have become controversial not only in Ukraine, but around the world. At the same time the current Ukrainian government expresses a strong interest in the European Union, trying to negotiate free trade and accession agreements to be signed on December 19th. These leave many people question the inconsistent behavior of the Ukrainian government.

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Belarus – Europe’s Last Dictatorship

VLADIMIR PUTIN TALKING WITH PRESIDENT ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO OF BELARUS. PHOTO: KREMLIN.RU. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Belarus has been branded the last dictatorship in Europe. The country is currently ruled by President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994. Electoral fraud, suppressed opposition and disregard for human rights have been characteristic throughout Lukashenko’s presidency. Despite massive protest from the citizens, sanctions and criticism from the international community, the Belarusian authorities remain unaffected. The lack of democracy however, is not the only deficit in Belarus now – the economic crisis is increasing in severity, and Belarus is in need of loans to avoid default. The question remains: who is willing to bailout this dictatorship?

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Swiss Election

SVP ELECTION POSTER. PHOTO: QTEA. FLICKR

Switzerland – Stuck in the Middle?

The elections for the national Swiss council took place on October 23 2011. What has changed and what can be expected from the “stubborn” country in the middle of Europe?

This year, a modest but constant leftist- wave has started to overrun central Europe. Starting in the city elections of Hamburg and Berlin and then in national elections of Denmark, “Social Democrats have lost votes even though they succeeded in defending (Berlin/ Hamburg) or capturing (Denmark) political power”, concludes Christian Levrat, president of the Swiss Social Democrats, “and I am very satisfied that we could achieve the same in Switzerland.”

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Multiculturalism

KINA CANDY BAR FROM FAZER. FEATURES THE CARICATURE OF AN ASIAN GIRL WITH DISTINCTLY SLANTED EYES, BRIGHT YELLOW SKIN AND A WIDE GRIN. PHOTO: JEMUFO. FLICKR.

- Part of the racist problem

A Rice-picking Chinese girl? A Wine swilling Aboriginal man? They are just the tip of the iceberg.

In Copenhagen airport there is a shirtless, bearded Indigenous Australian man. His face is painted and he appears generally unrefined, except for the glass of red wine held beneath his lips. The historical context of two hundred years of colonialism is neatly sidestepped. Here he is, the poster boy for both an Australian restaurant in the city and of the prickly debate surrounding cultural difference and multiculturalism in the Western world.

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A Snapshot from Poland

JANUSZ PALIKOT, A BUSINESSMAN AND POLITICIAN. PHOTO: REPORTER DZIENNIKA INTERNETOWEGO. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS- Human Rights, Religion and Politics

When it comes to human rights, and the lack thereof, it is usually dictatorships in other parts of the world that come to mind. It is easy to forget that these complex questions may just as well surface in Europe; for example Poland, a stable democracy with strong Catholic roots, also has some human rights issues on the political agenda, much due to incompatibility between cultural-religious traditions and the contemporary, more liberal trends in human rights.

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Failure of the Greek Asylum System

Asylum-seekers, being in that vulnerable position, could be seen as the subject par excellence of the human rights and most in need of a grid of protection. And to be sure, again and again their rights are violated. In Europe, a grim record of human rights violations, in the wake of the Dublin II regulation and the failure of the Greek asylum system, is being exposed. The human rights institutions have been harsh in their critique, but what has been achieved?

On 21 september 2010, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) declared the asylum situation in Greece a “humanitarian crisis”. The situation has been problematic for a long time. A large number of reports speak of a malfunctioning asylum system, unable to effectively determine the asylum claims being made, and a systematic practice of detaining asylum seekers for periods ranging from a few days to a few months without adequate information given as to the reasons for detention. Furthermore the detention facilities are reported as being overcrowded, unsanitary, and lacking in ventilation, mattresses and access to toilets.

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The Mother of Europe

GERMAN CHANCELLOR, ANGELA MERKEL. PHOTO: ALEPH, WIKIMEDIA COMMONSMassive budget deficits cause increased unemployment rates and poverty in big parts of the Euro-zone. While Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor, promotes increased financial aid to the affected economies, she is facing domestic critique for giving away German billions. Others criticize her for not being efficient and decisive enough. But Merkel is determined in her belief: without the Euro there cannot be a Europe.

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